Get time on your side

Written by Jennifer O’Connor

We all have the same amount of time to get things done, so why do some people manage to tick off everything on their to-do list, while others scramble from one thing to another without accomplishing anything meaningful? The difference is in the planning, says Elizabeth Verwey, president of HomeOffice Mentors, a Toronto consulting company. “Time management is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle,” says Verwey. “With some thought and creativity all the pieces will eventually fit.”

Of course, gaining better time-management skills is not an end in itself. They’re a tool to realize other goals, says Verwey. The key to achieving those goals is to break them down into small, manageable steps.

Here are Verwey’s tips to help you get a better grip on your day planner:

  • Plan your time in advance. For starters, figure out what jobs you need to do to run your business and schedule those commitments. Remember to set aside time for administrative duties. (In Verwey’s experience, many people neglect to factor in time for routine paperwork.)
  • Pencil in other activities, such as a morning exercise class, or homework with your child. Keep in mind that interruptions will happen — phone calls, meetings and e-mail — but with a written agenda, at least you’ll know what you have to do and when.
  • Analyze how you spend your time now. Divide your day into bite-sized blocks and after each block take a few minutes to record each activity you do.
  • Identify the tasks you procrastinate and develop strategies to overcome them. For example, spend the first 15 minutes of every day working on these tasks.
  • To free up time, Verwey suggests considering which jobs you can dovetail, delete or delegate.
  • Focus your energy and concentration on completing one task at a time. You can often complete a job in 20% of the time it would take when you’re distracted.
  • Finally, inject a little fun in your life. Reward your productivity with little bonuses such as a weekly massage or an afternoon off.

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© 2003 Jennifer O’Connor

Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com